The Best Frying Pans
For lots of home chefs, the best frying pan is going to be nonstick, oven-safe, and able to withstand some wear and tear. We consulted with the pros, then tested 10 best-in-class pans, flipping fried eggs, baking cornbread, and searing steak to see which were the least sticky and the most comfortable to maneuver.
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The 3 Best Frying Pans
- KitchenAid Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Nonstick Fry Pan – The Best Frying Pan for Most People
- All-Clad Stainless Steel Tri-Ply 10-Inch Nonstick Skillet – The Best Premium Frying Pan
- Copper Chef 10-Inch Round Nonstick Fry Pan – The Best Budget Frying Pan
The Best Frying Pans: Summed Up
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KitchenAid Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Nonstick Fry Pan
- Needs a little love
Why we chose it
Our top pick is from a brand you know and (if you have one of its signature mixers) probably already love. This frying pan gives you one more reason why. What makes the KitchenAid Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Nonstick Fry Pan so much better than the competition? Consistency. While some pans performed well in some areas and poorly in others, the KitchenAid ranked either at the top or near the top through every test.
This standout performer handled every type of food we tested — from fried eggs to oven-baked cornbread to seared steak — with even heat and a slick, nonstick surface. “Tri-ply pans are widely used in commercial and test kitchens,” food writer Ruzielle Ganuelas explained. “You need that layer of copper sandwiched between the aluminum for even heat distribution, and it also heats up the pan a lot faster than regular pans.”
Of the 10 pans we tested, the KitchenAid stayed on the cooler side, which resulted in steak that had a slightly more even sear compared to, say, the hotter Copper Chef — even though both cooked the meat to about the same rareness in the same amount of time.
At around $100 (we’ve seen it for as low as $60), the KitchenAid hits a sweet spot between quality construction and “so expensive you’ll think twice.” It’s also built to last the three to five years we expect from a nonstick pan. When we tried to damage it with metal utensils and a heavy whack against a concrete ledge, it came through with barely a scratch.
We were impressed with the KitchenAid pan pretty much as soon as we took it out of the box. It has a particularly comfortable handle that makes it easy to balance the pan’s 2.5-pound heft (about the median weight of all 10 pans we looked at) and once we started testing, it continued to deliver, competing with — if not outperforming — pans that were up to twice as expensive.
Points to consider
Needs a little love
Although we were able to successfully fry eggs and release cornbread without any added lubricants, you’ll probably want to add a little butter or oil if you want a truly slippery experience.
Also, even though it’s dishwasher safe, the KitchenAid’s care instructions suggest hand washing in hot, soapy water may “extend the life” of the pan. (Cleaning this pan is easy: A simple swipe of a soapy sponge left it looking shiny and new.) It also recommends you bring liquids to a boil before adding salt to keep white dots or pits from appearing on your nonstick surface.
The KitchenAid’s limited lifetime warranty doesn’t cover normal wear and tear, just manufacturer and workmanship defects — wobbly rivets, for example, or a nonstick coating that rubs off. But when we actively tried to damage the pan, we had a really hard time getting any results.
All-Clad Stainless Steel Tri-Ply 10-Inch Nonstick Skillet
- Upgrade quality
Perfect for the serious chef
- Less value
Why we chose it
The All-Clad Stainless Steel Try-Ply Nonstick Skillet is a comparable upgrade from the KitchenAid, both in looks and performance: about the same weight and size, similarly induction-friendly and oven-safe (up to higher 600 degrees), and with a quality nonstick coating. It also performed about the same in damage testing and cooking — even slightly outperforming our top pick in our fried egg test.
Perfect for the serious chef
If the Copper Chef is a pan for a starter home, the All-Clad series is designed (and priced) for a more serious kitchen. The profile and even-heat performance make it a stylish staple for the chef who cooks on high. We tested two All-Clad nonstick pans to see if the five alternating layers of steel and aluminum in the d5 were better than its tri-ply sister pan, the All-Clad Stainless Nonstick Fry Pan. We ended up liking both a lot, but from a performance standpoint, the tri-ply actually edged out the d5 in egg flipability and damage resistance.
Points to consider
All-clad makes a great pan. Still, it didn’t land the top spot for two reasons. First, its handle isn’t as comfortable to hold and maneuver, with curved outer edges that dig into your hand a little when you grip them on the stove or while scrubbing in the sink. Second: It’s a good $50 more expensive. That said, All-Clad is a well-known and well-loved luxury kitchen brand. If you’re looking for, say, a wedding gift, you won’t go wrong here.
Copper Chef 10-Inch Round Nonstick Fry Pan
- Great deal
- Hotter and less hearty
Why we chose it
We’re going to be honest: We expected this pan to fail. Anything with the bright red “As Seen on TV” logo comes with instant skepticism, but the more we tested the Copper Chef Nonstick Pan, the more impressed we were. Its “As Seen on TV” infomercials don’t lie — the nonstick capabilities are seriously impressive. Eggs and even steak slide around on this pan like marbles on a tabletop, and that’s without adding oil. Oh, and it’s around $20.
The Copper Chef gave us the best fried egg in our tests and it was the easiest egg to fry. Although the KitchenAid did very well in this test, there was still a slight resistance — that is, a little bit of stick — when we slid in our slotted turner and tried to flip the egg without breaking its yolk. The Copper Chef had no resistance at all.
PTFE, a.k.a Teflon, free
Copper Chef is one of the only pans we tested that’s not coated with PTFE — Teflon. The Copper Chef is aluminum (copper is just its color) with a Cerami-Tech ceramic nonstick coating. Ceramic coatings are known for not having the lifespan of PTFE — another reason for that small price tag — and we discuss why PTFE isn’t the risk some consumers think below. Every expert we spoke to and every study we read confirmed that there is no reason to avoid Teflon, and all our top picks are PFOA-free, which is what most Teflon-related health concerns are about. That said, if you are dead-set on a Teflon-free nonstick pan, this one will deliver.
Points to consider
Hotter and less hearty
The Copper Chef is not a perfect piece of cookware, particularly when it comes to heat and wear and tear. The majority of the pans we tested, including the KitchenAid and the All-Clad pans, had handles that stayed cool while we fried eggs and seared steak. The Copper Chef handle got notably hot. You’ll want to use a hot pad or an oven mitt while stovetop cooking.
You’re also going to want to avoid banging it around your kitchen. Even though it made it through our fork-scratch test without a mark, we managed to put a huge dent in it during our damage testing. At only about 1.5 pounds, that concrete ledge made a massive dent that warped its cooking surface. Also know that ceramic coatings wear away much faster than their PTFE counterparts, which means you’ll be replacing this pan in months, not years.
How We Chose the Best Frying Pans
Universally compatible, medium-sized, oven-safe pans
We started with a list of 68 nonstick frying pans from retailers as varied as Williams Sonoma, Kmart, and Amazon, then by looking for some basic criteria we narrowed the field down to 10 to hands-on test ourselves.
First, compatibility with all types of stovetops, including induction. Second, the versatility conferred by being oven-safe. Author and “kitchen gadget geek” Liana Green of Liana’s Kitchen likes oven-safe nonstick pans because you can, for example, brown a steak on the stove and put it directly into the oven without having to transfer it into a baking dish.
We also opted to only test 10- and 11-inch pans. This is a good size for cooking two fried eggs or a three-egg omelet, but if you’re interested in more (or less), most of the models we tested come in a range of sizes, typically from 9 inches up to 12.
- All-Clad Stainless Nonstick Fry Pan
- All-Clad d5 Stainless-Steel Nonstick Covered Fry Pan
- Circulon Symmetry Hard-Anodized Nonstick French Skillet
- Copper Chef 10-inch Round Nonstick Fry Pan
- Cuisinart French Classic Tri-Ply Stainless Nonstick Frying Pan
- Demeyere 5-Plus Nonstick Fry Pan
- Frieling Black Cube Fry Pan
- KitchenAid Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Nonstick Skillet
- Swiss Diamond Nonstick Clad Nonstick Fry Pan
- Williams Sonoma Signature Thermo-Clad Stainless Steel Nonstick Covered Fry Pan
Want to get a really quick sense of how good your nonstick pan is? Fry an egg on it. If you can successfully fry an egg without the white sticking all over the pan and with the yolk intact, you’ve got a keeper. We heated each of our test pans for two minutes, and then fried eggs on low heat without adding any oil or butter, specifically because we wanted to test the nonstick surface of the pan itself — without any additional lubricants. Same goes with our cornbread. We mixed the batter and spread it into each nonstick pan without any oil or butter. After 15 minutes in a 400-degree oven, we tested to see which could release a wedge leaving the fewest crumbs or crusts behind.
We did two tests to get a sense of heat distribution. The first was heating two cups of cold water over medium heat to see where those mini bubbles appeared first, and if there were any hot or cold spots as the water grew warmer. We also tested searing 1-inch round eye steaks over medium-high heat to see if any pans cooked hotter, or didn’t release meat as well.
All 10 pans handled the meat well — no sticking, and all achieved about the same rareness after six minutes — but some pans definitely seared the meat more than others. When we double-checked each pan’s temperature with an infrared thermometer, we saw about a 135-degree temperature swing, but nothing that would cut a pan from the running.
Nonstick pans aren’t heirloom kitchenware. According to author and recipe developer Pamela Braun, “Three to five years is about right for the lifespan of a nonstick pan that gets used regularly.” (She also noted, though, that “most people keep their pans much, much longer than that.”)
The true test of a nonstick pan is how it performs in the long term, so we did our best to cram a few years of use into a couple of days by breaking all the nonstick frying pan rules. We banged each pan against a concrete edge to see how easy it was to dent or warp the surface, and scraped metal forks across their surfaces to see if any flaked started flaking off. Then we ran all 10 pans through an industrial-strength dishwasher, including the ones that were “hand wash only.”
For us, the best nonstick cookware felt good to use, passed all our cooking tests, and sported a price point that wouldn’t make us gag. After a day in the test kitchen, we learned not all nonstick pans are created equally. Some are heavier than others; some have handles that dig into your hands or get hot while cooking; and some have surfaces that are more difficult to get clean. Turns out, some aren’t even all that nonstick.
How to Find the Right Frying Pan for Your Kitchen
Avoid nonstick pans with textured cooking surfaces
Some nonstick frying pans come with textured surfaces, such as the Frieling Black Cube Fry Pan and the Circulon Symmetry Hard-Anodized Nonstick French Skillet. It sounds a little like a no-brainer, but we found that the pans with textured surfaces were consistently less nonstick than pans with smooth surfaces — and the experts agree. “A raised pattern on a nonstick pan pretty much negates its nonstick ability,” Braun confirms. “Food tends to grip to the texture, so a smooth-bottomed pan is ideal in this category.”
Why would a nonstick frying pan have a textured surface? In the case of the Frieling Black Cube Fry Pan, it might be so that you can use metal utensils on the pan — a fact that Frieling advertises prominently. The Frieling pan was the only one to pass our fork scratch test with no marks whatsoever — so those surfaces are good for something!
Pick your ply
Of our top picks and honorable mentions, two pans are tri-ply: the KitchenAid Tri-Ply Stainless Steel Nonstick Skillet and the All-Clad Stainless Nonstick Fry Pan. The All-Clad d5 Stainless Nonstick Fry Pan, the Demeyere 5-Plus Nonstick Fry Pan, and the Swiss Diamond Prestige Clad Nonstick Fry Pan all have five layers — which helps explain why they are typically more expensive than the tri-ply options.
Frying Pan FAQ
As soon as anyone says “nonstick pan,” someone always asks, “But what about Teflon?” When people say they’re worried about Teflon, they’re really worried about perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, which can be used to make the non-stick coating. (Teflon is the brand name for one of many nonstick coatings that include the chemical compound polytetrafluoroethylene, or PTFE.)
As the American Cancer Society explains: “PFOA has the potential to be a health concern because it can stay in the environment and in the human body for long periods of time.”
Sounds scary, right? Here’s what else the American Cancer Society says: “Other than the possible risk of flu-like symptoms from breathing in fumes from an overheated Teflon-coated pan, there are no known risks to humans from using Teflon-coated cookware. While PFOA is used in making Teflon, it is not present (or is present in extremely small amounts) in Teflon-coated products.”
All 68 of the nonstick frying pans we initially researched for this review were PFOA-free, meaning you are very unlikely to have any health issues from using mass-market nonstick frying pans. If you’re still concerned about safety, know that even pans with PFOA are pretty safe. As Braun told us: “You only need to worry about PTFE or Teflon if you’ll be heating your pan over 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Otherwise this coating is safe. However, over time this coating can begin to flake. If that happens, it’s time to replace the pan.”
The big reason to hand wash your nonstick frying pans — even the dishwasher-safe ones — is to protect the nonstick coating. A single time or two through the dishwasher is unlikely to ruin your pans (it didn’t for any of the 10 we tested), but over time, harsh detergents and high heat can add unnecessary wear and tear.
Although multiple experts said that we could in theory cook without any oil or butter, we found this to be difficult in practice. Even on our top picks, a dribble of oil would probably have resulted in an easier fried-egg flip, and buttering the bottoms of the pans prior to baking would have helped our cornbread come out in a solid loaf.
That said, every expert warned us away from using cooking spray. “Never use cooking spray because it will result in a buildup that causes your food to cook unevenly,” Green told us. Too much cooking spray residue can also make nonstick pans sticky, which kind of defeats the whole purpose — and both All-Clad pans came with documents stating that using cooking spray on the pans would void the warranty.
Frying pans should be able to last for several years, and even more if you take proper care of them. a few tips for extending the life of your frying pan:
– Don’t leave your empty pan on a heat source
– Allow your pan to cool down before cleaning or submerging in water, to prevent warping
– For standard surface pans, it is best to use metal utensils. For nonstick pans it is best to use high-temperature silicone utensils
– Place liners between pans if you plan on stack them for storage purposes
– Wash by hand and scrub in the direction of the material, but if you do use a dishwasher, make sure the dish detergent is metal-safe